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11 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Triumphant BJP

The election results of the three north eastern states that went to polls recently came as a huge relief to the BJP
Kumkum Chadha
Triumphant BJP

The saffron party under the leadership of party president Amit Shah flagged brand Narendra Modi and accrued major gains. It swept Tripura and even being a junior alliance partner managed to form the government in Nagaland and Meghalaya. In fact both stories i.e. of Tripura and Meghalaya are worth recounting. In Tripura the BJP in one sense swept the election. From having no seats in 2013 and deposits then  forfeited in 49 out of 50 contested, to bagging  35 seats in 2018 is something that the BJP strategists themselves had not imagined. The number not only put the BJP above the halfway mark in the 60-strong Assembly but helped it emerge as a giant killer. Its vote share went up from 1.54 per cent in 2013 to 44 per cent in 2018 but more importantly it routed out the Left that had been in power in Tripura for 25 years.

In Meghalaya, it did one better in terms of strategy. With barely two seats against Congress’ 20 plus, the BJP managed to come to power under a coalition. This despite the fact that the Congress hastily despatched its senior leaders, Ahmed Patel, Kamal Nath and Mukul Wasnik, to whip up support for the party but they drew a blank. Even while the Congress did not want to repeat its mistakes that it had made in Manipur and Goa, where despite having chances of forming the government, the BJP pulled the rug from under its feet, its leaders returned empty handed while the BJP sat smug after cobbling up and alliance and forming the government. Ditto Nagaland.

More than the numbers game it is the message that the BJP has managed to send across: that being that the BJP is now in power, either directly or through an alliance, in 21 out of India’s 29 states and emerged as the dominant electoral player in every region of the country, barring the deep south and a portion of the east. In fact a look at the map of India clearly demonstrates that it is now saffron except in a few pockets here and there.

The election results and more importantly the BJP’s ability to form government in three north eastern states has successfully erased the impact of the recent results in Gujarat where the Congress did quite well and signified the coming of age of Congress President Rahul Gandhi. Then the Congress though not in a majority was being hailed as a winner even in defeat given that it bagged an impressive number of seats and the BJP fared poorly.

The real gains, however, were in the by polls. The BJP lost both Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan to the Congress. It also lost an assembly constituency. In Madhya Pradesh it retained the two assembly seats.

While the results were a shot in the arm for the Congress, it sent political analysts in a tizzy about the probable time for the general elections.

Till Gujarat happened there was speculation that the BJP led government may be keen to cash in on the upbeat mood of the electorate and prepone the 2019 general elections by a few months. By that measure the probability of having the general election at the end of 2018 were indeed very high. Gujarat results led to a rethink but more than that the set back in the bypolls of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan led to another round of speculation of whether the Modi government will actually wait and defer the negatives and have the elections when they are due i.e. in 2019.

The north east election results have changed the story yet again. With the BJP upbeat after forming the  government in all three states that went to polls  recently, the possibility of an early election is ripe yet again. The simple logic is that it is opportune time for the BJP to cash in on the gains it has accrued from the north east and expansion of its electoral footprint. By that logic a 2018 poll makes sense but given that north east does not reflect India or its electoral pattern the BJP will in all likelihood wait for the results of key states like Karnataka which goes to polls this year. If the upswing continues then it is quite possible that the elections are held before they are scheduled.

Either ways, as of now it is a win win situation for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is the one stop shop for winning elections and the BJP is aware that Brand Modi is unstoppable. Therefore irrespective of the timing of election it is the Modi-magic that is likely to accrue gains for the BJP. Having said that one cannot discount the groundwork that the party is doing under party president Amit Shah. The party machinery is not only in place but is well oiled and ready to take off. Compare this to the Congress that has many miles to cover both by way of leadership and strategy. As for ground work  it has very little to write home about. Its leaders are out of touch with reality and bereft of a ground feel. Under the circumstances to match the prowess of the BJP is an uphill task.

Add to that the efforts of the Opposition to form an alliance and unite itself under a non BJP- parties  umbrella. For one it is unlikely to cut ice because the face that is steering this has a regional presence. Efforts are on to by Telangana Chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao to form a non Congress and non BJP front. That he has got support from political leaders including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is a good sign but that alone is not enough for the Third Front that the initiative is being called, to take off.

Unlike Mamata, Rao does not have an all India presence and to expect that the electorate will rally behind the likes of Rao is a bit of a stretch.

The fact that the Third Front is floated without the Congress is a commentary on the shape of things to come. It is a tacit admission that neither the Congress nor its leader Rahul Gandhi has it in him to take on the BJP and its recent score in the north east has further diminished its position. Also it needs to change tack from crying foul to giving constructive policy to the electorate who even if they are a bit disillusioned with the delivery mechanism of the BJP do not see much hope in the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. His politics of taking on Modi is a great talking point but it stops there. If the Congress wants to go beyond that then it needs to come up with concrete plans and specifics on how it intends to fulfill the aspirations of Indians. By simply damning Modi or name calling will not get it very far.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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